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expert reaction to new NHS Digital / UKHSA childhood vaccination coverage statistics for England

New childhood vaccination coverage statistics have been published by UKHSA. 


Prof Helen Bedford, Professor of Child Public Health, Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health (GOS ICH), University College London (UCL), said:

“It is a great concern that the latest vaccine uptake figures show that many children in England are not fully protected against potentially serious infectious diseases. There is a particular problem in London where a quarter of five year olds have not had the two doses of MMR vaccine needed for best protection against measles, mumps and rubella. Measles in particular is so highly infectious that uptake of 95% of two doses is needed to protect children directly and give indirect protection to others. This includes babies too young to be vaccinated, people with immune problems and pregnant women, all of whom are at risk of serious disease if they catch measles.  The UKHSA has already raised concerns about the potential for a very large outbreak of measles in London after years of too-low-vaccine uptake. At the numbers they predict, up to 140,000 cases, we would not only see high numbers of people being admitted to hospital, but complications and even deaths. This outbreak can be averted, but the only effective method is for all children and young people to have had two doses of MMR vaccine. It is never too late to be vaccinated and I urge parents and young people to check their vaccination status, this can be done by looking in their child’s red book. If in doubt, check with the GP practice and where a child or young person is not fully vaccinated they can have MMR vaccine at their GP surgery. Two doses are needed and for people over the age of 18 months of age, only 4 weeks is needed between the first and second dose.”


Dr Doug Brown, Chief Executive of the British Society for Immunology, said:

“England continues to miss key targets on uptake for vaccinations for children and no routine vaccination reaches the World Health Organization’s (WHO) coverage target of 95% uptake at the correct time point, according to this year’s report on NHS Childhood Vaccination Coverage Statistics.

“It is particularly worrying that today’s statistics show that only 84.5% of children receive the second MMR vaccine dose by age 5 – well below the 95% level recommended by the WHO. Measles is one of the world’s most contagious diseases and cases are currently on the rise in England. We must ensure that vaccination rates improve to stop the spread of measles and give our communities the best possible protection available against this serious illness.

“Vaccines are the safest and most effective method to protect our children against disease. In the past year, 12 out of the 14 childhood vaccinations have seen their uptake decrease, putting our communities at higher risk of infection and illness. Lower levels of vaccination mean that harmful diseases can spread, infecting people who have not been vaccinated, including vulnerable individuals who are unable to have vaccinations such as young babies, people with compromised immune systems or people with cancer.

“The British Society for Immunology has been calling on urgent action from the Government including publishing the long-awaited Vaccine Strategy. This publication should be a comprehensive strategy and a springboard to strengthen the roles of local immunisation co-ordinators, ensure services are accessible, widen community outreach and increase both investment in public health campaigns as well as engagement with parents to answer their questions on vaccines.”


Declared interests

Dr Doug Brown: trustee of the Association of Medical Research Charities

Prof Helen Bedford: No conflicts.

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